Missed doses reminded me my inhaler is important for my COPD

Just 2 days without my medication resulted in some scary symptoms

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by Caroline Gainer |

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For years, I got up in the morning and coughed and gagged, feeling like my throat was closing. Then I’d get a prickly feeling in my arms and back, like when your circulation gets cut off and a body part goes to sleep. The medical term for this tingly feeling is paresthesia.

Thanks to my chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) treatment, I thought those days were an ancient memory — until I recently forgot to use my inhaler.

I follow a morning routine that helps me remember to take my medications, but it was interrupted by a phone call, and I didn’t remember where I was in my routine when I returned to finish it. I have a reminder device attached to my inhaler, but its battery had died, so I couldn’t check to see if I’d used my inhaler that day. Later that evening, I began coughing and gagging and felt the tingles.

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My inhaler said I had 29 doses left, but a quick calendar check told me it should say 27. Since the sensor went out, I’ve been marking on my calendar when I start a new inhaler. That way, I can count the days and know for certain if I’ve taken my medicine. The discrepancy in the numbers meant that I hadn’t used my inhaler for two mornings.

This experience was just as scary as I remember it. I’ve learned a lot about breathing and the respiratory system since my early days with COPD. When I get stressed, I automatically try to relax and calm my breathing. Still, it was frightening to hear that awful wheezing sound and feel unable to breathe.

On COPD360social, the COPD Foundation’s online community, people often comment that they cannot tell if their inhaler is helping and suggest they might quit using it. The problem is that patients might need long-term time before their inhaled COPD medications improve their condition. As the Mayo Clinic notes, “It may take several months before you feel the full effects of [inhaled corticosteroids].”

My recent experience reminded me how much my inhaled medication benefits me. Please consult your pulmonologist before stopping or making any changes to your treatment regimen so that you don’t end up in a scary situation, like the one I was in.

Note: COPD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of COPD News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


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